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  • If Windows 8 was a Star Trek Movie

    win8hellI’m typing this on my brand new Laptop. Said Laptop came with the dreaded software bug, otherwise known as Windows 8. I HATE Windows 8. It’s clunky, it’s interface is designed for a touch screen (vs. designed for a full on computer), and it’s extremely unintuitive (I had to make a short cut to the control panel because it’s so buried), and it’s changed so many standards that we’ve come so familiar with (coughs – start menu!). A friend of mine said if Windows 8 were a movie, it would be Star Trek V: the – oh I can’t even remember the name of that crappy movie. Just that it was crap. Crap on a stick with butter and toast – but I digress…

    For arguments sake, We’re going to lump all pre 95 versions into one version. They, just like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, have never been fan favorites. They had their merits, and to be fair, there wasn’t much to compare them to. Still, they were clunky and hard to operate. They probably would have been duds if there were any other options out there. But Trekies and computer users alike were forced to go with what they had, or not at all. Ok, computer users could have gone with a Mac, true, but that’s besides the point. In all honesty though, I look back at Star Trek: The Motion Picture with the same fondness I have for Pre 95 versions of Windows. It’s clunky, it’s stupid – but it’s also so nostalgic and despite the plot and memory holes, it feels like a simpler, more innocent time.

    And then came Windows 95 – like a Genesis missile launching to a planet, giving new life to everything. I know this is going to make some people really upset, but if there was one single piece of software that changed the world, it was probably Windows 95. It became the standard pretty early on, and the OS that really made home computing a friendly experience. It even brought the internet to the forefront of technology. And a bonus feature – every time you got the BSOD, an “illegal error,” or whatever, you almost wanted to yell KAAAAAAHHHHNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or maybe GAAAAAAATTTEEEEESSSSSS. So yeah, if you hadn’t guessed by now, Windows 95 is the Wrath of Kahn. It showed us what a computer could do, just like Star Trek II showed us what a Trek movie could achieve. Hmmm, does this mean JJ Abrams is going to reboot Windows 95? Suddenly I’m remembering how I had to reboot every single time I changed something. GAAAAAAATTTEEEEESSSSSS!!!

    A few years later came Windows 98. To be fair, it wasn’t a bad OS. It fixed a few things in Windows 95. It tried to be it’s own OS as well. Having said that – it really wasn’t much more than a splash in a pan. There was no real innovation – just evolutions on the existing OS. It wasn’t really a dud, it just – was. I would almost see it as a filler OS, just like, The Search for Spok (only not quite as slow -www.instantrimshot.com).
    Windows 2000, while never meant to be a “home edition” really shook things up for the Windows user. In a good way. To be honest, while I can’t name one physical thing that Windows 2000 did, I can say that when I upgraded to Windows 2000, my BSOD rate plummeted dramatically. I think most people would easily say their computers ran a lot better with Windows 2000. Oh, but what Star Trek Movie does this equate to? Well, we could go with Generations I guess. It was a bridge. A bridge between stability and lack thereof. I’m bored with this paragraph – moving on…

    Enter Windows ME. The last two paragraphs might have been dry – boring in fact. Well, I had to save all the humor I could for this paragraph. Windows ME SUCKED. And not just in a metaphorical way. Windows ME sucked the life out of everyone that used it. Seriously, I think a better name would be Windows Vampire. But it didn’t just suck the life force from everyone who came within a mile of a computer running said OS, it also sucked the resources of the computer itself. BSOD jumped up 5000% from previous versions of Windows [citation needed]. It required as much RAM as you could give it – and then forced you to close down every program you weren’t using immediately – because evidently Windows ME didn’t believe in Multi-tasking. Oh, but what about the Star Trek movie? I’ve already used Star Trek V: Shatner’s revenge. That’s ok, Insurrection fits the bill quite nicely. Windows ME sucked the life-force of out of computers and their users, Insurrection was about aliens trying to get their life force back by sucking the life force out of the audience. I can’t believe I saw that movie twice on opening day! Just call me a sucker.

    And then came XP……Would I compare XP to any Star Trek movie per se? Maybe Star Trek VI. Honestly, this is where the argument goes into that of apples and oranges as the comparison of the two are less than intuitive. Yes, the two can be compared on the basis that they’re both among my favorites of the Star Trek Series and the Windows series, but really that’s where the analogy comes to a screeching halt, much like Captains Kirk and Sulu halted General Chang’s plans to…..wait, I said the analogy halted. The point is Windows XP was a great OS. I ran XP on four different machines – more than any other windows OS to date. And to really stretch the analogy, I probably watched Star Trek VI more than any other Star Trek Movie. How can I resist Captain Kirk kicking that alien in the knee nards?microsoft-store-300x220

    My comparisons of Windows versions have almost been sequentially parallel to the Star Trek Movie I’ve compared them to. This was an intentional thing, and even a throwback to an earlier version of this article. Having said that, it’s a really good thing I rethought this – because Windows Vista does not, in any way shape or form, equate to Generations. Yes, some people didn’t like Generations – but I did. I did not, however, like Vista. I did not like it so much, that when it came to buy a new laptop circa 2007, I intentionally got a laptop with XP. At the time of Vista’s release, I read articles where businesses were actually going to switch to using LINUX because of Vista. That never really transpired mind you, but the fact that these unnamed businesses were even considering this move speaks volumes. The main problem with Vista is that Microsoft focused on Security and forgot about usability. I think Sheldon Cooper said it best – My new computer came with Windows 7. Windows 7 is much more user friendly than Windows Vista. I don’t like that. It just made a bad OS altogether. So….if Vista is not Generations, then what is it? I’ve used up all the bad Star Trek movies thus far except for one – Nemesis. Vista had so much potential, as did Nemesis, but neither lived up to their respected potential. In fact, I would argue that both of them lowered the bar so much that the next version of Windows, the next Star Trek movie, HAD to be good because they were NOT the last crap fest Microsoft / Star Trek threw at us like so many zoo caged monkeys! bill-gates-borg-150x150

    So, does that make Windows 7 Star Trek (2009)? That would make Windows 7 the equivalent to the very best Star Trek movie ever, First freaking Contact! The borg had invade with their inferior version of Windows – but did Picard and the crew of the Enterprise give up? Hell no! They freaking came back and took back the Enterprise, just like Windows 7 took Windows 7 and made it back into a decent operating system. I’ve had two computers that used 7, and I confess – I’m in love with it. I wish this computer had Windows 7. I wonder if I can downgrade…..

    Reboots in movies are tricky. When things change, people get confused and are often times left in the dark. But if they’re done properly, they can add value to an established lore. The same can be said about total redesigns of computer software. Windows 8, if had been done properly, could have been Star Trek (2009). Instead, we get Star Trek V. As I’m typing this – I’m downloading Windows 8.1, and hoping to God it’s better than Windows 8. But I’m not holding my breath – too many flaws in 8 for it to be fixed. I know Microsoft want to give us “one experience for all devices,” but the way I operate a laptop is NOT the way I operate a tablet or a phone. And until Microsoft drags Steve Ballmer to the guillotine realizes this, they’re going to give us crap.

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  • Are we burning our books yet?

    Before I get into this article I want to express that I do not want to trade my book collection for a Kindle. There are several reasons why: personal preference, simple practicality, and even contribution to social injustice. Having said that, I would not actually mind owning a Kindle (or another brand of e-book reader). With every technology, e-book readers have their flaws and their benefits. Will the benefits outweigh the flaws? Maybe. Like I said earlier: there are several reasons why I hate the idea of e-book readers, and a few reasons why I love the idea.

    Let’s start with the reasons I don’t like the idea of e-books. My number one reason is that of ascetics. There is nothing like wandering into Powell’s late on a Saturday night. It brings me great joy to sift through a mound of books in the coffee room and figure out what book(s) I want to buy. It is almost ritualistic; I’ve been doing this for most of my adult life. But asides from this ritual, there’s the pleasure of finding bookmarks, receipts, and who knows what else in the binds of an old book. There’s the fact that I like to underline and write in and highlight and even look at what others have written and underlined and highlighted in books. There is also the feeling of holding a book in your hands, just flipping through it, page after page. There’s the smell of a book. I could go on and on with the different aesthetic qualities paper books have. These things are things we would loose if we all read e-books exclusively. I find the idea almost heartbreaking.

    Asides from aesthetics, one reason I do not like e-books is they are, in many cases, simply impractical and limited. If one drops their e-book reader and breaks said e-book reader, one cannot read their books. If the batteries go out on one’s e-book reader, one cannot read their books. If one is in a dusty and/or damp place one cannot read their books. The E in e-book stands for electronics – which tend to be very fragile. And let’s not forget: e-book readers usually cost a couple hundred dollars. If you leave your e-book reader on the bus, you are out that much…whereas if you leave your paperback book on the bus, it might cost 20 bucks at the most to replace (and usually one can find a used copy for significantly lower costs). The very thing innovation in e-book readers, their “electronic” nature, is also their fatal flaw.

    I mentioned briefly the cost involved with e-book readers, and how this contributes to their impracticality. The cost also contributes to another reason why I do not like e-book readers: the idea of e-book readers contributes to a social injustice in our society. In a truly paperless book society, the poorest people will not have access to books because they cannot afford e-book readers. This is setting up a scary precedent – a divide between those that can afford to read, and those that cannot. There is already the digital divide between those who are and are not online. A paperless book society will in fact strengthen this divide. Information in any form will not be available to those who cannot afford an e-book reader. There is also the college student to think about. It is a probability that some of the first publishers to go fully paperless will be the textbook publishers. Textbook publishers HATE the used book industry, and make great strives to put out new editions as often as they possibly can, so as to increase their profits. If these publishers can sell e-books instead of paper books (coupled with DRM), the average student will HAVE to buy a new book, thus upping the cost of books by hundreds of dollars. And again, if said student is studying on the bus or in the park or wherever and they forget their e-book reader, they are out a couple hundred dollars. Most college students live on student loans and part time jobs, and really don’t have that much cash to spend every-time they forget their book. I know when I was in college, I freaked out about loosing a 45-dollar book! I can’t even imagine what it might be like to loose a two hundred dollar book!

    Don’t get me wrong – e-books have their place; there are pros to e-books and e-book readers. Most of the pros, from my viewpoint, have to do with reducing bulk. If you’re like me, you have dozens of magazines which you do not want to get rid of, yet do not quite know what to do with! If one could obtain digitized copies of said magazines, as well as future issues, one could eliminate the piles of said magazines. Another bulk reducing pro: I really do not care to own all the books I read. A great deal of my books end up proudly displayed on my bookshelf awaiting for the next time I want to read said book (or at the very least, loan it out). However, a lot of the books I have are destined to be sold back to Powell’s or given to a thrift store (quite possibly in the middle of the night – dumped on their front door so they can’t say “sorry, we don’t want these”). E-book readers could very well eliminate the bulk of these books. E-book readers could especially be useful for those who buy airport novels (though why anyone would read such trash is beyond me!). And of course, bulk reduction means less trees killed to produce books; e-books are made of pixels, so e-books are better for the environment.

    Many advocates of e-books believe it is inevitable for books to go fully electronic in the near future. These people point to the digitizing of music and movies over the last decade – thus books are logically the next thing to digitize. These advocates forget something: The dominant medium for music and movies changes every ten years or so. In music alone, the dominant format has changed from records to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs, and now to digital formats such as mp3s and mp4s. Books, on the other hand, have not had such an evolution. Books have been around thousands of years, and about the biggest format change is that of handwritten scrolls to printed books. Books are probably the most stable information medium the world has ever known. So are we going to just burn our libraries and go to an all digital format? Only time will tell, but given the history, it is not very likely – and I’m just fine with that. All things considered, e-books have their place, but e-books have their boundaries as well.

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  • A decade long trek…

    I’m in the preparation stage for writing my best albums of the decade post(s). Its quite a  daunting task, because there is a LOT of music from the zeros(or whatever we’re calling this decade) in my music collection – more so than any other decade. Part of it is because not every album I’ve owned from previous decades is in a playable format; many of my CDs have been lost or damaged, and I really don’t have many cassette tapes left. Part of it is because I have more disposable income, and thus tend to buy more albums. But part of it is simply there is more accessibility to music this decade than there has been in past decades.

    I remember in 2001, as a third year student at PSU, I discovered MP3.com. With a few searches, I was able to find so many artists. These artists did not necessarily have a label, or in some cases, even an album, but they had mp3s up for grabs.  I still listen to many of these mp3s today, though I’ve lost a few in the inevitable switching from one computer to another. Adding to the online accessibility equation, there was (and is), of course, the wave of P2P applications that have made it easier to find music; Napster, Kazaa, Soulseek, and Bit torrent clients have all found their ways onto my hard drive over the last ten years. And of course payed services such as Itunes and Emusic have played a part in my musical consumption. Its so much easier to read an album review at midnight in my pajamas, listen to a thirty second snippet of a song, and then download said song – perhaps even the entire album, than it is to read said review and wait till the next day to go to the record store. That is assuming that one remembers to do so.

    But websites, P2Ps, and online music stores are not the only thing that’s made music more accessible in the last ten years; podcasts and Internet radio have played a vital role in finding new music as well. No longer are we a slave to whatever crap our local stations insist on playing. If we don’t like what the Portland stations are playing, we can check out what Seattle or New York or Los Angeles or Denver or London or Singapore and etcetera is playing. We can listen to almost any radio station in the world now. And of course, there are podcasts from both professional DJs, and amateur DJs from all over the world.  Its fairly common for me to listen to a podcast and end up downloading a quarter of the songs played on said podcast.

    While accessibility has played a major part in the music of the last decade, there are simply more bands producing music right now. Any garage band can record their music and upload it to the Internet without having to have a record company. And sure, record companies help, but they’re not necessary. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah produced and distributed their first album without the help of a record company. This could not have happened before this decade. Sure, the early 90s saw a surge of garage bands make it big, and everyone started wondering how to find these garage bands – but that was the problem, no one knew where to look because these garage bands, if they were able to afford to make a recording, could only afford to make a limited number of CDs. Its just easier to market yourself online, then it is to play a dozen or so shows around the city and hope that you develop a following.

    It truly has been a noteworthy decade as far as music is concerned. It makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring. Some of my favorite artists did not exist until this decade. Other bands that I’ve loved all through the 90s, and even into the 80s, decided to call it quits in the zeros. What bands will emerge in the teens, and what bands will call it quits? What technologies will emerge? What technologies will become obsolete? In ten years will we mock the Ipod like we mock the cassette tape now? And will my musical tastes be different in 2019? They certainly are not the same as they were in 1999. Only time will tell on any of these questions, but I suspect the teens will show us all a lot of music. Look out for my top albums of the zeros in a week or so, as well as one or two other best of the decade lists.

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